Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a standalone downloadable title that utilises the excellent Far Cry 3 engine to drag us kicking and screaming into an 80’s inspired gore-fest. There’s quippy one liners, a bag full of gloriously cheesy references and an abundance of tongues firmly lodged in cheeks. But whilst Blood Dragon thrives on its inspirations from an audiovisual perspective, does its strengths merely run skin deep?
Game: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal/Shanghai
For fans of classic movies such as RoboCop, Rambo and The Terminator, you’ll totally get Blood Dragon’s unrestrained self-indulgence straight from the off. Rex Colt is a cyber soldier with an aptitude for killing large quantities of, well, anything. Within the seemingly dizzying future of 2007 (to many an 80’s fiction writer), you’ll be guiding him through a desolate post-nuclear war landscape with the mission of preventing a psychotic evil-doer from wiping out what little remains.
What you’ll also notice is that Blood Dragon is very much a smaller, skinned version of Far Cry 3; lush forest daylight has been replaced with a foreboding darkness, blue skies with Tron-like neon beams and modern day weaponry with pseudo-futuristic versions. Scan lines run throughout the game and the loading screens are presented as tracking from old VHS tapes – the attempts to induce nostalgia are as frequent as the attempts the game makes to consistently mock itself. The retro 16-bit cutscenes are another example, filling only part of the screen and all are intentionally over-the-top in their delivery.
Michael Biehn (best known for his role as Kyle Reese in The Terminator) provides the 80’s action star, monotone grumbles for Rex. The dialogue in general is horrific, in a good way – it’s that good/bad blur that’s difficult to differentiate. Like watching Arnold Swarchenegger deliver a monologue and knowing it might be the worst thing you’ve ever seen, yet somehow you’ll walk away craving a sequel. Blood Dragon, by happy chance, adopts this failsafe throughout by allowing you to simply enjoy it rather than having to constantly ponder over whether the game is being intentionally bad or if it’s just genuinely bad.
There’s several nice touches to immerse you in the surroundings, too; the soundscape is aptly retro from pulsing synth to classic metal guitar riffing and seeing Rex crank in tools to heal up his cybernetic body parts all add to the flavour. However, like Far Cry 3, you won’t find much variety in the landscape and the continual darkness makes it even more noticeable. This isn’t a flashlight zombie corridor shooter by any means, but you will find yourself wishing for a little sunlight that never comes.
In fact, variety is a general problem throughout. The constant influx of dry humour that starts out hilarious does eventually wear thin. Tutorials and tooltips, for example, will enlighten you with mocking nuggets such as ‘hints on the loading screen will give you hints’ or ‘running is like walking, but faster’ – amusing at first, but like the dialogue, it feels like it’s trying a little too hard to be lackadaisical in places.
Missions also suffer from the same problem at times. The main storyline essentially is a selection of locations to simply shoot your way through until the end. Shooting does feel fantastic, however, and those who engaged in Far Cry 3’s concrete engine will feel at home straight away. The side quests offer a little more diversity in the way of infiltration and scientist rescue but overall repetition and even cliche, when it comes to enemy design, doesn’t live up to the somewhat wacky writing and production that it resides with.
A lot of the longevity comes from the garrisons you’re given to liberate. Clearing out the bases is enjoyable and by doing so you’ll unlock the different side-quests from the ‘adventure cabinet’ located inside, plus access to weapon upgrades and ammo replenishing that is bought with credits accumulated from pilfering enemies, looting hidden chests and hunting.
Whilst a lot of the enemies and wildlife are just re-skinned, the main titular addition adds some interesting gameplay elements. The tough Blood Dragons are small dinosaur-like creatures with neon skin that changes colour depending on their mood and they use their exceptional smell to hunt their favourite treat, ‘cyber hearts’, from the dead. They can’t see too well, however, meaning you can collect the hearts and use them to divert their attention. Used cleverly, you’ll be able to guide them into enemy troops, sit back and enjoy the bloody, limb-tearing show – very much like Far Cry 3 in the manipulation of wildlife to your own advantage.
Out of the seven missions, you’ll get yourself a solid three hours of entertainment fighting off hordes of henchman and generally being a grade-A badass to whatever gets in your way. However, with the tasks of liberating garrisons strewn around the island, hunting and side quests, there’s a superb amount of extra content to wade through. Beyond that you’ll find VHS tape collectables hidden around that you ‘rent’ and TV’s to find. They’re a venture that Rex finds baffling – one of the many facets the game uses to poke fun at the shooting genre. All in all, it’s hard to argue that Blood Dragon is anything but excellent value for a downloadable title.
What you’ll ultimately get out of Blood Dragon, is a game that’s designed to rekindle the unadulterated fun that was so synonymous with the media of the 80’s. Whilst it should be said that some of the references may be lost on a younger generation, the premise of the presentation certainly won’t be – and that, along with a great content to price ratio, makes Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon an attractive proposition to anyone who likes laughing and shooting things at the same time. If you hated the 80’s and think shooters are dull however, probably one to steer clear of.